Following a model developed in Memphis, Tennessee and refined in Portland, Oregon, a group of Salem citizens has coordinated with local organizations to inform low-income people of discounted or free experiences, goods and services.
Called Salem for All! the group is based on the premise that opportunities for personal fulfillment should be made available to those with low income. Its stated goal is to be “a resource of valuable and meaningful experiences for members of the Salem community.”
Opportunities are listed on the Salem for All! website, where many, but not all, are designed to be accessed by holders of Oregon Trail (SNAP) cards as proof of low income.
Over 90 entities now participate, providing eligible people who research the site with information on benefits as diverse as discounts at Volcanoes baseball games, free poetry on the site itself and information on exhibits open to the public at the Bush Barn Art Center
“We’re happy that Salem For All! is bringing all kinds of neat opportunities to those who have less in our community,” says Michael Mann, Executive Director of the group. “The community support we’ve received has been quite strong. It would be great if we made a real difference in our community.”
Among other opportunities, the website tells people that if they purchase $10 worth of produce with a certain procedure and an EBT at the Salem Saturday Market, they will receive $5 in free “Market Match Bucks” which they can use to buy things at certain Market booths.
It also describes how to obtain discounted admission to the Oregon Zoo. Some links are solely informational; the Family Building Blocks and Community Action links simply allow users to learn about these programs and their benefits; the CCTV link tells people that they can have a no-charge orientation on resources that are free to local people; the Book Bin link tells people about free author readings and book clubs; the Gretchen Schuette Art Gallery link welcomes people to no-charge poetry readings from Chemeketa faculty and staff.
Those who access Salem for All! learn that if they have certain military identification cards, they and five immediate family members can access exhibits at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at no charge, and if they want to read Christian inspirational fiction they may buy e-books at a discount.
Mann says that people who use the site have shown gratitude, telling him, “It’s a great deal; I couldn’t afford the tickets otherwise,” and, “This opportunity makes going to concerts possible for me and my kids,” and similar comments that reinforce his belief that helping those with less is the right thing to do.
“Salem has a lot to offer in the way of opportunity,” Mann says, “Our team wants to make Salem a place where all of us have this kind of advantage – even those who traditionally don’t have the chance to participate. We believe it enriches us all, and makes Salem a happier place for more.”